Scams, (fake) science, and publishing

The publication of scientific articles is essential to research but today this process faces two evils: predatory journals and doctored articles.
Details below. 

Created 25 November 2021
Updated 26 November 2021

About this article

Created 25 November 2021
Updated 26 November 2021

They might look and read like scientific articles and journals, but they are not worthy of the name. Two evils are currently plaguing the world of scientific publication: “bogus” journals and “fake” articles.

Predatory journals

The principle of predatory journals is simple: they publish articles because they are paid by the authors and not because of the articles’ quality. This allows authors to publish lackluster findings unworthy of publication. It also allows interest groups to promote studies they know to be biased or falsified in order to promote the product or the sector they represent (e.g. a drug). The problem is that these predatory journals closely resemble legitimate journals, at times even partially plagiarizing their names, making it difficult to recognize them. The resemblance is so close that good scientists are being fooled into publishing legitimate articles in these journals, or are being influenced by the bad articles they read in them. Fortunately, lists of these predatory journals (more than 14,000 titles as of the beginning of 2021) can be found online, published by researchers and associations (such as constantly on the lookout for them.

Paper mills

In addition to fake journals, there are also fake articles. Such articles are written by paper mills, whose role is to provide authors in need of inspiration or career advancement with ready-made articles in return for a few dollars. The problem is that these articles contain fabricated scientific results and error-filled data. One can occasionally read articles on cancer, for example, whose data are pure science fiction, and this even in highly respected journals, whose editors have been duped.

14,000 More than 14,000 titles as of the beginning of 2021

400 Over 400 fake research papers published

Elisabeth Bik, a Dutch microbiologist specializing in scientific integrity (and in microbiota!) has identified over 400 fake research papers published in China by just one such paper mill1. Even with researchers constantly on the lookout for these black sheep of the scientific publishing world, caution is still required, as anyone can be deceived. Aware of such scams, the Biocodex Microbiota Institute takes the greatest possible care in selecting the articles featured on its website.

Elizabeth Bik has created the blogs Integrity Digest (on scientific integrity) and Microbiome Digest (on microbiota research).